Thursday, November 29, 2012

Frozen Carrots

Well the preservation of this year's food is almost done. Which is good since it is almost the new year. I pulled out about 11 lbs of SugarSnax carrots and froze them in two batches as peeling that many carrots all at once hurts my hands.

I had a lot of trouble getting them to seal with a vacuum. The liquid in the carrots prevented the final seal from happening. I found if I sealed it two times it worked better. So I did that. I also put some in Ziplocs. I'll use the Ziplocs and the ones with flawed seems first. The well sealed ones will be used last. Last year I had a lot more frozen, but I think this will be more than enough. I have a lot of the orange vegetables this year. Maybe less carrots, but way more winter squash. And certainly more sweet potatoes as I've never grown them before. Last year my carrots were my main orange vegetable. This year they are my most minor one.

The six pounds of Mokum carrots will be stored in plastic boxes in the fridge. They ought to keep very well for a couple months like that. I'm sure they will be gone by then. I kept the Mokums fresh as they tend to be a sweeter and more mild tasting carrot. So great for fresh eating. Though the SugarSnax is a very good fresh eating carrot too, it isn't quite as good as the Mokums.

I still have two major chores before the end of the year. The first is to wrap up the figs to insulate them. Last year they died back to the ground. So this year I'm going to bury them in leaves and cover with a tarp. But for now I have a cold and I'm sticking to staying inside and drinking tea. The hope was that I could start on the other one. I have to go through all those wonderful catalogs and figure out what I want to plant next year. I always order from Fedco, but occasionally order elsewhere too. Sadly my Fedoc catalog is not yet here. I wish it would hurry up.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Harvest Monday, November 26, 2012

I am guessing that this is the week that the ground will start to freeze on a permanent basis for the winter. So I had to harvest everything except the few things in the garden that can handle it. This includes spinach, mache, and kale. I also have a small patch of Asian greens left. In the past couple of years I've kept a small patch of them alive into the middle of January. I've covered them with a row cover and then with plastic. But this year I'm being lazy. I've left them just under the row cover. A row cover really can't handle snow well. It collapses. But I'll see how long they last. Not that I need anything right now. I've got tons in the fridge. I even took a cooler full of greens to Thanksgiving with me and gave it all away.

First up to harvest was the brassica bed. It had four small cabbages and a huge Yakatta-na. There is also a small bit of broccoli hidden behind the leaves.

Next up was half of the Asian greens bed. The rest of which I'll wait on for a few weeks and then pick again. The first basket contained Fun Jen, bok choy, and tatsoi. Also in the basket but buried is some radish and turnips. The radishes don't do well for me in the fall, but the turnips are wonderful.

The second basket from the bed had a huge Fun Jen, three tiny little Chinese cabbage, and a lot of bok choy.

Later in the week I harvested all of my carrots. These are all the SugarSnax.

And these are all the Mokums. I had the water to the garden already turned off, so I had to bring out a big tub of water to clean them up before I brought them inside. I really do try not to bring too much dirt into my kitchen. I always get some, but at least the carrots were half clean.

As to the tally I had to subtract some weight too. My storage onions are not storing well. I'm guessing I'm going to lose about half of them before they get eaten. So I've knocked off half of my storage onion total. I'm not sure why last year they stored fine until March, and this year they are rotting in November. I'm thinking that I must have bruised them when picking. Maybe. I'll be very gentle next year and see if it helps. Or maybe they just didn't like their partially shady spot. They will be in a slightly better spot this coming year. But I just can't give them the circle garden every year. Something has to grow in the bad spots in the garden. If I liked frozen onions at all I'd freeze the lot, but I really hate them frozen. So I'll just try to use them up. And then I'll be stuck buying onions from the grocery again.

  • Broccoli 0.31 lbs
  • Carrots 16.99 lbs
  • Greens 19.82 lbs
  • Herbs 0.07 lbs
  • Roots 0.45 lbs
  • Weekly total 37.63 lbs
  • Yearly total 708.97 lbs
  • Tally $1491.63

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, November 23, 2012


I have one main bed of carrots that I've been slowly harvesting from. But on Saturday night the temps will drop and I'm thinking this will be the winter freeze. We have had freezes before and the ground did freeze once this fall, but we had warms spells after that thawed things out. After the first frost I uncovered my carrots. I was thinking the carrot flies were gone for the year (they were) and letting the carrots see some frosts and freezes makes them sweeter. This bed had two varieties. I had Mokum in three 7' rows, and SugarSnax in four rows. The SugarSnax usually produces much more than Mokum, but I think they needed a bit more sun in the fall to really size up a lot. I did get some nice ones though.

I did have one small test patch in the end close to the fence. I wanted to see if they could produce anything. This section really doesn't get a lot of sun at all in the fall. Even early fall. But it never hurts to try. Part of the bed had some cover crop planted. It also used to have the flowering bunching onions. So there was onion seed in the soil too. Both carrots and onions were coming up at the same time. The carrots were not covered. I sowed very thinly so I wouldn't have to thin. With that and the onions I had my fingers crossed about the carrot flies. It turns out I did get a little carrot fly damage, but not a lot. Not nearly as much as last fall. However I didn't get many carrots from the bed and those I did get were mostly tiny.

These are all the carrots pulled. the ones on top are the SugarSnax and the ones on the bottom are Mokum. The ones to the right are the Mokums pulled from the test bed. The number of Mokums from the main bed is deceptive. It looks like so much less than the SugarSnax, but I did pull mostly from the Mokums over the fall for my fresh carrots. So I expected them to be less.

You can see my biggest carrot there near the rebar. The rebar is 2' long. So the carrot is about 10". Last year my biggest carrot was 11" maybe even 12". Last year I got about 30 pounds of fall carrots. I wish I could compare to this year's 18 lbs. But I'm not sure how much space the carrots took up last year. They were scattered. Most of the harvestable ones came from my circle garden (with great sun) and the carrots there were huge. I had about half of that in carrots. But I also had lots of other little spots. I think I was really carrot hungry last year.

So all in all I'm happy with the carrot harvest. It wasn't stellar, but it was good. And I have over 100lbs of other orange veggies (squash and sweet potatoes) to eat up this year. So I wouldn't feel the lack even if the harvest was even lower this year.

Tomorrow I'll get out and put some compost over the bed. I'm growing Asian greens here in the spring so the bed has to be up and ready quickly. I might even pound in my rebar for the hoops before the ground freezes. That way I can cover it early and get the ground unfrozen fast for spring.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sweet Potatoes and Other Lunches

Happy Thanksgiving to all that live in the US. This is not a Thanksgiving post, but as I'm out eating way too much food right now I thought I would post what I've been eating over the last week for lunch. I finally broke into my sweet potato stash as they are now not as starchy and are taking on a nice mildly sweet flavor so two will feature that wonderful vegetable.

The first up is a wonderful recipe that contains sweet potatoes, onions, amaretto, and thyme. It also called for olive oil, but I didn't think olive oil would go as well as coconut oil, so I used that instead. I was amazed by how delicious it was. I think I'll stick with coconut oil every time I cook sweet potatoes it is such a perfect complement. When this was cooking I smelled the thyme overwhelmingly in the dish. I really thought thyme was a weird mix with amaretto and didn't like the scent all that much. But by the time it was finished cooking, the taste was fabulous.

My next meal was leftover salmon. I wanted to make a pasta dish. The recipe I choose wasn't quite right as I was doing a salmon that was already cooked, but I just shredded it and mixed it in. I also used cooked chard as I had no fresh spinach. It needed more chard. It really did. Too much pasta for me and not enough other stuff. I could have chopped the chard fine and mixed it in too. Of course one of the main problems was that it also called for capers and I didn't have any. Capers would have been very nice, but I don't stock them in my pantry. It isn't an ingredient that I use very often.

My last dish was a soup. I was looking for recipes that had sweet potatoes in them and ran across a cook from Mexico that had a quinoa and sweet potato soup. It had peppers and such that I couldn't eat. But I liked the idea of a sweet potato soup with quinoa. Very healthy. So I made one based on a very mild curry. You know I can't eat curry since I can't eat peppers. So the first part was to make a curry powder without peppers.

Daphne's Curry Powder

  • 1/4 c ground coriander
  • 2 T ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 T ground turmeric
  • 1 T ground cardamom
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground mustard
  • 1 t ground fenugreek
  • 1 t ground ginger

Of course if anyone else wants to use it they ought to put some cayenne pepper or other chili powder into it.

Daphne's Quinoa and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4 T coconut oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 lb ham cubed
  • 2 t curry powder
  • 1/4 lb kale chopped small
  • 1 cup corn
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 2-3 cups sweet potatoes cubed
  • 2 T cilantro chopped
  • 2 T chives chopped
  • Greek yogurt

Soak the quinoa for five minutes in water. Drain and rinse. In 2 T oil, saute the onions until translucent. Add garlic and quinoa. Saute until lightly toasted. Add stock, water, ham, curry powder, kale, corn, and salt. Cook for 30 minutes or until quinoa is soft. While that is cooking, saute the sweet potatoes in the remaining oil until browned but not mushy. When the quinoa is done, take off the heat and add the sweet potatoes, cilantro, and chives. Mix a tablespoon or more yogurt into the soup before eating. Now I know most would use the cilantro, chives, and yogurt as a garnish, but I like mixing things in when I don't have company. I know, not as pretty. But very practical.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two More Beds

We have been having more lows in the 20Fs recently than in the 30Fs. I should have taken out my cabbage last week before it got damaged from the freezes. It was under a row cover, but our temperatures got low enough for it to have a heavy frost underneath. Now it only damaged the outside bits and the inside is fine. What shocked me was that one cabbage was starting to split. In the fall? That is so strange. At least the Gunma cabbage gave me something. Two 2lb heads. It was more than I thought I would get as it was a late cabbage and I thought I put it in too late for it to make anything. The two Early Jersey cabbage were only about one pound each, which is pretty normal as they are small cabbages that can be put closely together. The Brussels sprouts that shared the bed were a lost cause. They ended up in the compost.

I also removed the row cover over the broccoli and chard. I harvested what I could then ripped all of them out. There was a good amount of chard there, but the stems were starting to turn pink. I have a white variety and I think they just can't take the cold weather that well either. The plants aren't new. They were planted in the spring. They gave me a lot over time. The final tally on chard is 56.32 pounds (5.26 lbs/sqft). The finally tally on broccoli is 22.78 pounds (1.07 lbs/sqft). Both were amazing to me. I try to get about a pound per square foot over the whole garden. Things like mustard seed, don't come even near that, but their poor lbs/sqft is made up with things like chard that do over five times that. That is better than my chard has ever done before. But the real shock was the broccoli. I've never had broccoli perform like that. I've always just barely eked out little tiny bits of it. This time it pulled its weight. Needless to say I'm going to grow Fiesta again. I've finally found a broccoli that will grow here. It isn't a pretty broccoli, but it gives a lot and puts out side shoots all summer and fall. Woohoo! I do love broccoli. I grew it even when it gave me small amounts. But this year I even gave some away to my townhouse mates. And my daughter visited during the main broccoli season, and I had plenty for her. It is her favorite vegetable.

Then it was on to the smaller Asian greens bed. I hadn't harvested much of anything but some choy sum and some radishes and turnips. I cleared out half the bed. It is getting cold. I've decided not to put plastic over it this year. I'm going to see how long the row cover lasts. There is not much light getting in, so I really don't think plastic will warm it up all that much. I got three tiny little Chinese cabbage (direct seeded at the start of September so I was happy to have any of it), a bit of tatsoi, and lots of Fun Jen and bok choy. I still have bok choy, turnips, and tatsoi left in the bed. I'll harvest it slowly until it freezes solid here. Then I'll just pick the rest. The tatsoi is pretty good. It can keep pretty fresh even when frozen and dethawed multiple times over the early winter.

The carrot harvest will probably be on Friday morning. At least that is the current plan. On Saturday our nights will get down into the 20s fairly permanently after that. And I need to pick them before the ground freezes. Usually that happens about a week earlier, but this year it gave me more time. Then there won't be much left in the garden. Overwintering garlic, spinach, mache, and kale, and the small bit of Asian greens for December.

So soon I won't have much left to do but put my feet up and read seed catalogs. I was happy to get my first one yesterday. I went through it already and marked a few things. I always order from Fedco, but not always from other places. Their catalog isn't here yet. When it gets here, I'll have to go through all my seeds and see what I really need. Then get serious about placing an order. I like to get my order in at the end of December so my onion seeds will get here in time to start the first seedlings at the end of January.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Harvest Monday, November 19th, 2012

I don't have a huge amount of actual harvests this week. I found that some of the veggies were rotting in my fridge, so I used the week to eat up all that was in there. Except for a few radishes and turnips I succeeded. Next week will be a bigger real harvest as I need to pick the carrots and cabbage before they all freeze.

Most of what is on the harvest tally this Monday is my supply of sweet potatoes. I didn't weigh them before. I was going to weigh them when they were sweet and I was starting to eat them. They aren't very sweet yet, but they are tasty in a more normal potato starchy kind of way. They make an excellent mashed potato. But since I was eating them, I figured I ought to get the tally done so I don't accidentally eat them before their weight is tallied. Well it was over 50 pounds. I was shocked. I didn't think sweet potatoes would be that good of a crop in our short season. Though we did have a really hot summer last year.

I'm going to go through the numbers on the sweet potatoes. I'll be tasting them all winter long to see which ones I like, but for now it is just raw numbers. I grew them in my circle garden. It doesn't have a regular shape so the square footage is questionable. But I think the two beds are about 32 square feet each. Similar to a 4'x8' bed. One bed had the sweet potatoes that were sent to me by Norma (Korean Purple, Purple, an unknown purple, an unknown white). One had the ones from the supermarket (Beauregard, Garnet). All were short season sweet potatoes.

Korean Purple4.1080.51
Unknown Purple3.7680.47
Unknown White2.6480.33

I was impressed with the Garnet variety which only had two slips (as the potatoes didn't want to produce slips). It did have the best spot for sweet potatoes though. It was in the corners that stick out so was surrounded by three sides of brick. In general plants near the bricks did best. It might not do so well in a cooler spot. But it will be grown again next year to find out. I got a total of 65 pounds in 64 square feet, so it was a good yield for the space, especially since it wasn't the only crop to be grown in that space this year. I put in some fast growing Asian greens in one bed in the spring. The other had Kale growing there that had over wintered from the year before. And this fall I planted one bed for overwintered spinach.

The problem is that next year I'll have to grow them in another bed. I do like to rotate things to keep diseases at bay. So they won't have the nice brick sides. They will be in a bed that doesn't get as much sun (none of my main beds get as much as the circle garden). So will they grow as well there? I may find that in future years I want plant sweet potatoes by alternating them in each of the circle beds. Next year I'm only growing one bed of sweet potatoes instead of two. I'm not sure I really need 65 pounds of sweet potatoes. So with just one bed planted up that might work.

My intention is to grow the first three on the list again as they are such good producers. I'd like to add Georgia Jet if I can get my hands on it. Purple is a bit problematic though. All the other potatoes stopped growing when picked. But all the Purples are trying to sprout. Admittedly they have been stored at temps in the 60Fs. Mostly high 60Fs until now. It was warm in the basement. But none of the other have this trouble. I go down occasionally and rub any sprouts off. If this ruins their texture, I might forgo Purple. I don't want to do this as the purple anthocyanins add variety to the nutrients I'm getting with my stored food over the winter.

  • Greens 0.34 lbs
  • Sweet Potatoes 65.41 lbs
  • Weekly total 65.75 lbs
  • Yearly total 694.09 lbs
  • Tally $1425.62

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving in a Jar

My friends do a Thanksgiving in a strange way. We divide up the Thanksgiving meal by color. That way all the normal bases for Thanksgiving are covered. I was giving green, which you might think that I would like with a garden full of green right now (kale, cabbage, tons of Asian greens). But the typical green means salad and green beans. Neither of which are growing in my garden right now. Now I'm allowed to be creative and color outside the lines, but I know that some people would be sad to not have them. So I traded for red. Typically red has been my favorite color to have since it means I make the cranberry sauce. It might not be from my garden, but in my family's tradition we have cranberry ice as a cranberry sauce. I've followed this tradition since I moved across the country for school. And I'm going to make it whether I have red or not. Last year I made it when I had orange.

Red is a decent color for me. Last week I picked some beets and radishes. So I decided to make some pickles as an appetizer. In addition to pickles made with red beets and ones made with a mix of turnips and radishes, I made some with carrots and some with kohlrabi. I didn't follow any of the linked recipes exactly except for the carrot one. But I followed the gist of them.

Then I went a bit overboard with the cranberries. I made over six pounds of cranberries into cranberry goodness.

I made my traditional cranberry ice, pickled cranberries, an orange flavored cranberry sauce that I added cinnamon and grand marnier to, and one made with apple cider and some cut up apples. I decided to can them all as if they don't get eaten I can bring them to Christmas dinner or eat them at home with chicken. I so love playing with cranberries. Not only do you get the wonderful pings when the cans seal, but you get all the cranberries popping while you cook them. And they smell so good. I'm really hoping for some left over so I can have it all winter long. But if not, there is always Christmas time to make more.

The pickled cranberries are interesting. The pickle juice is basically a shrub, so I'm debating if I should bring some vodka and soda water. I've bought a couple of bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau already. I might bring some, or might cross my fingers that someone has already brought soda water. Someone surely will bring cider (maybe, you just never know with the way we divide up the meals). It would be really good in cider too.

The real reason that I was so happy for red was because Thanksgiving is all about pies. I had some nice frozen red gooseberries for gooseberry pie. And I had some frozen rhubarb and strawberries for a strawberry rhubarb crisp. Yum.

And my butternut squash will make an appearance on Thanksgiving. I'm giving it to our orange person (last year there were two orange people, but this year only one). I'm bringing over three squash. Though sometimes it seems like people forget, but Thanksgiving is a meal that gives thanks for the year's harvest. So I like using as much as possible from the garden.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cooking and Preserving

Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Coleslaw, and Salmon with Mixed Herbs from the Garden

My dinners have been pretty plain. This is pretty standard at my house. My husband isn't into gourmet meals. And I tend to like my vegetables simple. My lunches tend to be more adventurous as I like a wide variety of things and I don't make lunch for my husband. Usually I'll make one dish a week for lunch and eat that and leftovers all week long. But this week I've basically been eating only leftovers for lunch.

Broccoli, Swiss Chard, Saffron Rice, Baked Chicken with Rosemary

The above meal was made because I needed the chickens and bones to make some pot pie innards. The celery had just been harvested and I wanted to freeze some of it in an easy to use way.

So I cooked way more than I needed. I was doing a double batch of my pot pie recipe. So I needed a lot of chicken. I ended up with 7 cups of chicken pulled off the bones - well after we ate dinner first.

And four and a half quarts of broth. I did use other bones for the broth too. Whenever I cook chicken I freeze the bones until I have enough to do a large batch of broth. I don't season my broth like most people do. Mine is basically plain when I make it. It will have some herbs that were stuck to the chicken. In this case it has rosemary and basil from two differently seasoned dinners. But I like it as plain as possible. In the final dishes I'll add all the flavorings I need. Two quarts were used for my pot pies and the rest was frozen for soups later.

I combined it with some fresh picked carrots and celery and some onions from my storage. The seasoning for this is sage from the garden.

And cooked it all down and pureed it. I puree it because my husband won't eat veggies. Well he will, but he hates the texture. So it gets pureed. Then the chicken is added. You will notice I no longer add potatoes. So sad. I miss them. But I freeze these up. There are two cups of pot pie insides in each one. I have a small casserole that perfectly fits these containers. My pot pies aren't made with pie crust. I put cheddar cheese biscuits on mine. So now all I need to do is defrost and make some biscuits for the top. I like to have some easy meals in my freezer.

The rest of the celery was chopped and frozen. I think I have more than enough for soups this year.

I was going to add the canning I've done for Thanksgiving, but I think I'll do that in another post as this one is long enough.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Good and the Bad

I've been slowly getting my garden put to bed for fall. I know I've been doing this for a month and I'll be doing it for longer as I take more things out of the garden. Earlier this week I finished up double digging the last bed that I was going to do this fall. I finished putting on a layer of compost. I've got enough compost made already to cover all the beds that I will be using in the spring, but not enough to finish all the ones that will be started in the summer. But by then I might have enough compost ready to complete the chore.

Much of my compost comes from the yard waste I get from my garden and yard, but both sides of the house (we are two townhouses) compost their kitchen waste in a covered black composter located next to my pallet bins. I don't want to compost in the main bins as we live in an urban area next to two towns with rat problems. I don't want to attract the rats. I put hardware cloth under the composter so rats can't get in. I didn't bother with this at my last house as we lived in the woods and never had an issue with the wildlife getting in as long as the top cover was on.

But recently I noticed the cats were watching the composter. They would sit right above it all afternoon. Dang there were mice in the composter. You can easily enough make a composter rat free as they need a much larger opening (typically the size of a quarter) to get in, but mice can get into just about anything. I thought I'd had it good enough to keep them out too, but a composter is very attractive to mice. It isn't just the kitchen waste that gets put in. It is the worms and other insects they love to eat. A mouse buffet. Every fall I open it up and empty it out before winter anyway, so it was time. I didn't want to give them a good home all winter long. Mice are not friends of the garden. Usually the cats can keep them in check but the cats can't get into the composter so I had to do the work myself.

And the compost pile was worm heaven. I dumped the contents of the almost full composter onto the half finished yard waste compost that I turned over a month ago. I'm hoping by summer it will be ready to use. Most of what was in the black composter was really ready now. The worms had done a good job of breaking it all down. The only recognizable things were the citrus and the cabbage cores. Citrus is way too acidic to break down easily. It usually needs more time. And I swear cabbage can live through anything. Which is good since I want to store the cabbage from my fall garden for months over the winter. And I was happy to see that this year the corn cobs all broke down. Last year they didn't. I think now that the worms have found my yard, composting will be much easier. And yes I did find the flaw where the mice were getting in. One side of the soil had gotten lower and it left a gap. The gap as how been fixed.

And if you can't tell by what I've written already, I'm a lazy composter. I don't turn my piles on a regular basis. I just let them rot down slowly. Worms won't go into a hot pile, but they love the cool ones. So my compost will be more of a worm bin than a real composter. I'm fine with that. Worms are wonderful.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Harvest Monday, November 12th, 2012

My first harvest was the last of the celery. We were going to get temps in the mid 20s. I wasn't sure how well celery would take it. It does like the cool weather, but freezing weather is another matter.

I didn't mean to go out in the snow, but I really needed some carrots to finish off a recipe. So out I went. Gardening in the snow is not my favorite activity.

I'm not a fan of beets, but I do grow them for my townhouse mates. I pulled the last ones in the bed as I was cleaning it out. I'm going to keep these this year. I've decided to make a platter of pickled vegetables for Thanksgiving so I'll make my first ever pickled beets. And probably my last.

The other pickles will be from my other root crops. I had forgotten about my turnips and radishes under the row cover. They may look small, but those carrots are of decent size, with the largest about 6" long. I tested the biggest Japanese turnip. It was still tender and sweet so I used it. The radishes were slightly hot, but I figured that was a good thing. Personally I like hot radishes. I'm thinking they will mellow as they age over the next week.
  • Carrots 1.38 lbs
  • Greens 2.72 lbs
  • Roots 2.06 lbs
  • Weekly total 6.16 lbs
  • Yearly total 628.34 lbs
  • Tally $1228.44

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Preparing for the Holidays

There is nothing more messy in the world than making jam. Oh does it splatter. My husband complained that night of the floor being sticky. I even had to bring out the big pot for this recipe from the Food in Jars blog. I usually make small batches of jam in my 3 quart pot. But there was no way that a recipe that calls for 12 cups of fruit was going to fit into that pot. For those in the world that use a reasonable measuring system, 12 cups equals 3 quarts.

My husband was suggesting that I make gift baskets for the neighbors again this year. I might. But if I did, I'd need some jam. Now I should have made enough strawberry jam for this as that would be the prefect gift as it would have been from my garden. I do have apple trees and cranberries in the garden, but the apples have not yet produced anything and the cranberries really are struggling without a bog and with a very dry summer. I'm thinking they need a bog if I want them to produce even if they were sold as bogless cranberries.

I did do some preserving of things actually from the garden. I froze some rhubarb. It too is for the holidays. I'm going to bring a strawberry rhubarb crisp to Thanksgiving this year. This year I've preserved rhubarb two ways, by canning and by freezing. I'm going to see if there is any difference in their taste in the final product. Freezing is much easier, but it also takes up precious freezer space.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Circle garden dusted in snow
We are getting the first snow of the year. We aren't supposed to get very much here, but the weather has been turning colder. Sunday night it got down to 25F and right now it is only 33F. Brrrr.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dried Bean Overview

Beans are a favorite food of mine. I'm not talking the green variety either. I like green beans, but I love dried beans. Sadly without being able to eat tomatoes and peppers, many of my favorite dishes are off the menu- chili, black bean soup, burritos, charro beans, bean dip. But I still love them in things like Gallo Pinto, bean burgers, and many kinds of salads and soups. I'm still working on expanding my repertoire of bean dishes without the nightshade crops, but it is hard since they are such a natural pairing.

Beans last almost indefinably though as they age they take longer and longer to cook. After soaking, dried beans take about two hours to cook if you buy your beans from the store. Sometimes they never get that nice tender feel without even more cooking. My beans take about half that time. I've yet to have a batch take longer than an hour even when they were a year old. The beans that I grow tend to be heirlooms that you can't find in most stores. In our neck of the woods we do have one bean farm (Baer's Best Beans) that grows dried beans and they have all sorts of old heirlooms that they sell. In fact three of the six kinds of beans that I grew this year came from them. I don't know how well beans from a regular store would germinate, but their beans germinate just fine.

I'm going to go through the beans that I grew this year. I'm going to list them in order of the yield that they produce.

Tarbais Alaric

Tarbais is a pole bean that is grown in France. It is the quintessential cassoulet bean. It almost disappeared because as a pole bean it has to be hand picked. But Jean-Marc B├ędouret and some friends saved the bean and brought it back into commercial production. I planted my first Tarbais last year. It was the best producer that year, and it continues that trend this year. I gave it four square feet and a trellis six feet tall. It shared the trellis with my Kentucky Wonder green beans. This plant is more aggressive. It would be nice to have a spot to give this one a trellis of its own. Though my other pole beans got very diseased as the season progressed (pretty normal here), this one resisted the diseases better. It is a late producer and can only produce one flush of beans each year, which is fine since that flush is so large. Its yield was 0.36 pounds per square foot. Last year the yield was 0.37 lbs/sqft. I got the bean from the SSE yearbook.

Trail of Tears

Cherokee Trail of Tears is the second best producer and also a pole bean. Last year it was right up with Tarbais, but this year it didn't have time to get its second flush out this year. Last year it did. As you might expect from its name it is an old Native American bean that was brought with the Cherokees on their forced march away from their homelands. The bean grows very vigorously. I always joke that it is an alien with world domination on its mind. It can easily take over its neighbors given the chance. I gave the plants 8 sqft of growing space. Its yield was 0.27 lbs/sqft. Last year it was 0.37 lbs/sqft. I got this bean from the Ottawa gardener (Veggie Patch Reimagined) years ago. I've since given it away to dozens of other gardeners. It is a truly wonderful bean.

The above beans were the only pole dried beans I grew. Pole beans are always more productive than bush beans. Both are tried and true varieties in my garden. This year I was trying a few bush beans, which I hadn't done in a couple of years. Bush beans are easier since they don't require a trellis to construct. But they are also harder. Picking bush beans is a real pain in the back. Literally. For pole beans most of the beans are higher up so they are easy to pick. I do require a small stool for the highest, but I keep one in the garden so that is no problem.

Yellow Eye

Two of my choices in bush beans are New England heirlooms. Both are known as the best beans for making baked beans. Which one you choose depends upon where you are from. Yellow eye is typically a Maine bean, though other areas of New England also use the bean. Bean growers in the area say there are a lot of strains of this bean. The one I got was from Baer's Best Beans. They are located in the Peabody/Beverly area which is pretty close to me. Even though this bean is a New England bean, you can't find it in the regular stores in the Boston area. You have to go to specialty shops to find it. I have this bean 12 square feet of growing space. It yielded 0.15 lbs/sqft.

Tiger's Eye

Tiger's Eye bean is an heirloom from South America. I've read Argentina, Chili, and Peru. So take your pick. I've grown this bean once before. That year I found the yield wanting. But I also found the texture to be much more creamy than any other bean I've ever had. So it would be good for a variety of recipes. Though I warm you those pretty markings disappear when you cook it. This was the earliest of all the beans. I was picking these in July. I give it just 6 square feet of growing space because I only had 25 seeds. When I decide to not grow a variety I occasionally keep a small amount just in case I change my mind. I figured I might since I love the texture of this bean so much. It yielded 0.10 lbs/sqft. The bean was originally obtained from Dan from the Urban Veggie Garden Blog.

Jacob's Cattle

Myth has it that Jacob's Cattle beans were originally cultivated by the Passamaquoddy tribe located in Maine. If you are to find a local heirloom bean for sale in the Boston area in your typical supermarket, it would be this bean but still don't count on it. It has been a favorite for baked beans for centuries here. I gave it 12 sqft of growing space and it yielded 0,09 lbs/sqft. The beans came from Baer's Best Beans.


Calypso (aka Yin Yang) beans are a very old heirloom from the Caribbean. I know little about them. I picked them because they are pretty (OK maybe not the best way to choose but I do use my jars of beans as decoration in the dining room). I gave them 12 sqft of growing space and they yielded 0.06 lbs/sqft. So they are the lowest yielding beans in the bunch. That being said they did have a bad spot by the fence. That spot doesn't get nearly as much sun and their yield probably reflects that. The beans came from Baer's Best Beans. BTW if you live in the area and want to buy local beans from them, they sell in some farmers markets, but you can get them year round at Wilson's Farm in Lexington or Russo's in Watertown.

Zinnia, Beans, Peas

I was smart this year. I packed up some of the beans for next year's planting. One year I ate all of one variety. Whoops. Luckily Granny came to my rescue. I'd sent her some in a previous year and she had grown them and had some to give back. Next year I think I'm going to grow only three types (yeah right). I'm going to try to do a rotation in an 4'x 8' bed from spring crops to Tiger's Eye. And one from Tiger's Eye to fall crops. I won't eat any of my Tiger's Eye beans this year and save them all for planting next year. I do love those beans. And I think since they are so quick I can get away with this. Since they will only take a bed for half a year, their yield will be closer to 0.2 lbs/sqft that way. Not as good as pole beans. But still decent. I'm going to grow two 4'x 8' beds in pole beans. One will be exclusively devoted to my beloved Trail of Tears. One will be split with Tarbais and Kentucky Wonder green beans. I've avoided putting a whole bed into pole beans before because they shade each other. Usually I run them along the back of another bed. But I'm going to try next year to see if it will work. I'm hoping.

For now my beans decorate my dining room. They will slowly disappear as they are eaten. Since growing dried beans isn't a normal garden veggie, I get a lot of questions about it. The reason most people don't grow them is that it takes a lot of space to get a pound of beans. My garden typically yields a little over a pound per square foot of space. Beans don't do better than 1/3 of that. Beans also don't cost all that much, so their value per square foot is low. In New England dried beans can be a problem to grow. Some years we get a lot of rain and drizzle when they are harvested. I do lose beans to the pod mildewing. But overall I do pretty well if I pay attention to the weather forecast. Some years the pods never dry because the humidity is too high and the weather too wet and I have to gauge when to pick them and dry them inside. I always remove them from the pod then. The pod is brown and dead and won't give the beans anything but a better spot to mildew. I like to grow them because I love dried beans. Now I have plenty of space for them. But even at my last garden where I didn't have room to grow all my veggies during the season, I still reserved room for some. Not all that I would eat in a year, but some. I also like that it is something easy to preserve that I can eat in the winter. When my garden is buried in snow I like to be able cook a meal from something I grew. So dried beans aren't for everyone. But they are an easy crop to grow. They are one of my 'plant them and forget them' crops. I only have to worry come harvest time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Harvest Monday, November 5th, 2012

All the dried beans had been shelled a while back, but I still hadn't weighed them. So I finally got around to it. Last year I grew 50% more. Next year I'm going to give more space to my beans. I especially want more black beans as I love them so much. I'll probably do an overview post later this week on all the beans. What varieties I grew and the yields on each and what I'm going to change next year.

I picked some more rhubarb. I know it isn't the typical season, but I'm trying to keep that one plant from getting too big. So I beat it back whenever I can. As it has been getting colder more of the stems are getting red. They are so much prettier now than in the summer.

This was my one harvest basket for the week. The chard and broccoli share a row cover so when I went under for the chard, I noticed the broccoli was ready to pick. There was quite a lot of it. The peas are starting to fail. They seem to be plagued by a couple different diseases now. I'm guessing they will die in the next two nights as it gets really cold. I just don't think they are healthy enough to survive. So it might be my last picking of peas
  • Beans 8.05
  • Broccoli 1.22 lbs
  • Greens 1.11 lbs
  • Peas 0.27 lbs
  • Weekly total 4.48 lbs
  • Yearly total 611.52 lbs
  • Tally $1178.11
  • Fruit
  • Rhubarb 1.56

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bag Lady Strikes Again

Every year about this time I turn into the bag lady. I scour my neighbor's trash for their leaves. Well scouring the neighborhood isn't all that hard since our town composts leaves. Everyone has to put them in a nice big compostable bag or in a bin labeled yard waste. I do have to check to see what is inside it. Any yard waste could be there. This year the worst of the bags had a whole bunch of roots and rocks in it. Ick. But most were some nice leaves.

I picked this morning to do it since trash pickup is on Mondays in our neighborhood and I was busy later on Sunday. After the storm I figured there would be a lot of neighbors with bags out. My husband came with me and jokingly ranted about our lazy neighbors that hadn't left any leaves for us. Usually I don't have to go many blocks before filling up the borrowed minivan, but this year we had to travel farther than a few blocks to get what I needed to fill in my two leaf bins. Monday morning would have been a better time to pick up leaves, but then I wouldn't have had the help of my husband.

I like collecting leaves every year. Jeavons says to grow your own carbon sources for sustainability. But in a suburban or city neighborhood, leaves are an easy carbon source that don't take any space to grow. Everyone else grows them for you and then throws them away.

This year the leaves were different. A good fraction of the leaves were green. Usually I get dead leaves, but these were blown off the trees in the storm. I found more than one bag that had started the composting effort without my help of adding a nitrogen source. I wonder if it will be warm enough for them to keep composting for a while. I did add water to some of the leaves as I emptied them from the bags. Some were dry. Some were wet. I've found they can break down in a year with all the worms I now have if I can keep the leaves wet. If they are at all dry the worms shun them and they take a couple years to break down. Typically one leaf bin is used for making compost with our kitchen waste over the year. The other just sits there waiting to turn into leaf mold. If it can do it in a year instead of two, I'm always happy. I don't have enough yard waste in my urban setting to make enough compost for the garden. I don't even have enough space to make enough leaf mold if I collected more leaves. So the faster the leaves break down the better.

Now my bins are all tidied up. The four bags that are on top help keep the leaves I've collected already from blowing away. And as the bin compacts over the next few weeks, I can empty them out. Sometimes I leave them anyway as the kitchen waste composter is on the other end and it is easier to bring a whole bag over at a time than a forkful of leaves.